Thursday, as the clock struck 3:15PM, the last question was finally asked by a student in my Journalism Ethics class. Finally students rose from their chairs and started to pack up to leave class. For me, it marked the last class of the week and all thoughts were now focused on the weekend. I put my red Dre headphones on and scrolled through my IPod to select something to bring me into the weekend (If you don’t know me that well, I love music. I’m always listening to it, walking to class, doing schoolwork, while running or just to unwind after a long day). For sports travel, especially driving trips, music is a key component. I have been graced with the alter ego of DJ CJ, courtesy of co-sports director Andrew Callahan. With a wide variety of music I take pride in my skills as a DJ.
The 10 minute trek back to Garrigus Suites allowed me to plan out what I was going to do for the rest of the night. I had about 4 hours to continue my preparation for the Men’s Soccer Big East Championship Semifinal that I would be broadcasting the next night and also had to prepare to call our first Field Hockey game of the season (We only broadcast the NCAA Tournament on WHUS and this was the First Round of the NCAA’s against Princeton). Field Hockey, a top 5 team nationally, had earned the right to host the First Round and Quarterfinals, if they were able to win Saturday morning. Being the first game I would be doing for a field hockey game…EVER. I scheduled an interview with Field Hockey Coach Nancy Stevens to help me understand the trials and tribulations of their season and what players were going to have an impact on the game.
As I finished up prepping for the upcoming games my roommate and his girlfriend (Riggio and Rachel, his first name is Ryan but no one except his mother calls him that) came into our suite and asked if I would like to go to Red Robin with them for dinner. Of course I accepted and after showering jumped into Rachel’s purple Dodge Caravan headed to Manchester. Over dinner we of course talked about the UConn men’s basketball team (which is always a topic of conversation even in July). As we finished dinner I was already thinking toward my normal 10pm run (I try to run 25 miles a week. Usually five days of 5 miles. Sometimes I hit it, don’t come close or actually run more. I’d say hitting it on the mark is the usual). However, where most people think that running is awful, which were my thoughts in high school when my cross country and track friend, Mike Leone, would always be running. I would voice my opinion that he was crazy doing all that running. But now I’m addicted to it. It’s a time for me to have to myself and think about things I have to do for school and at the radio station. When I’m happy, mad, frustrated or down in the dumps it helps balance out my emotions by reenergizing me and feeling like I accomplished something that day. However, my run would never come on Thursday. We decided with no classes the next day and not having to get up until closer to noon that we would have some fun for the night. It was a glorious, refreshing night that was nice to kick off the weekend.
After falling asleep at an early morning hour I woke up at around 11am ready to head down to Harrison, NJ where the Big East Championship Semifinals and Finals would be held at Red Bull Arena. After picking up my broadcast partner, Steve Zocco, we were ready to go. Both Steve and I decided that a Third Eye Blind Playlist was necessary for that afternoon’s travel (This became a bit of tradition after UConn won that night’s game). While we got closer to the New York-New Jersey border my phone (which at the time was our GPS) rang with Field Hockey Coach Nancy Stevens on the other end. We talked for about 20 minutes about the team, the intricacies of the sport and even the changes in athletics at Connecticut since she came in the early 90’s. Coach could have gone on for a least another hour if the time allowed her but she had to go because of a “technical meeting” the team was having. After saying good luck and good bye to coach I hung up and was happy how the interview went. She was so nice and really enjoyed listening talk about her team and I was able to get a lot of good information.
But as I looked at Steve, who had been holding my interview notes up for me during the interview while I also tried focus on the road (which didn’t happen at all. Total focus was on the interview). The ensuing conversation went like this.
Me: Alright Steve what exit do we have to take?
Steve: Oh we missed it about ten minutes ago. (No smile or sign of concern)
Me: You’re kidding, right? Why didn’t you tell me?
Steve: I didn’t really notice until I saw the exits were counting in the opposite direction than I thought. Plus I didn’t want to interrupt your interview.
Me: (laughing and then finally getting us back on track)
As we approached the stadium game mode had taken over for the both of us. It was time to get mentally prepared for a good broadcast and hope UConn could pull out that night’s game. As we approached the stadium we collected our credentials and had our bags tagged. We asked one of the attendants where the radio booths were. They responded second floor. So Steve and I took the stairs and arrived on the second floor noticing that there was not a single radio booth there. We asked a puzzled gentleman where the radio booths were and after some confusion finally told us the fifth floor. SO after taking the stairs to the fifth floor and getting to our booth we were ready to set up and get ready for the game. This though is when things starting snowballing downhill for two UConn student broadcasters.
First and most importantly our equipment wouldn’t connect back to the studio which was so frustrating. Comparable to watching Cubs games during the summer when my family used to have MLB Extra Innings. Every Cubs game would be on TV and for some of them my mom would read on the couch adjacent to the couch where I was sitting and watching my Cubbies play on. However, on multiple occasions, the Cubs would carry a lead late into the game and the opposing team would get a hit to tie or take the lead. Every single time my mom would lower her book look at the TV and say, “That’s not good.” I would lose it my dad would come in laughing and say “don’t yell at your mother for your team sucking for the last 100 year” (By the way I love the man but hate that he is a St. Louis Cardinals fan. Cardinals-Cubs is the Red Sox-Yankees of the Midwest but doesn’t get all the publicity here in Connecticut). Back to reality where my blood continues to boil and forced to think of every possible option to get this game on air. In the end we had to do the game by cell phone by calling into the station and talking through our cell phone. This made it so only one of us would do play by play for each half. Steve had first half play by play while I fiddled with the equipment hoping something would magically change. During all this poor Steve has no lives statistics or rosters because the media room was actually on the second floor and no one ran up the stats to the fifth floor (We found this out on Sunday). So both teams remained tied until with 11 minutes left UConn took the lead on a beautifully placed shot by Junior Stephane Diop (Diop had defeated Louisville on Oct 1 in double overtime to also give the Huskies a 1-0 win). Connecticut after 11 minutes and 3 stellar saves from Andre Blake moved UConn past Louisville and onto the championship game where we would later find out would be long time rival, St. Johns. We would be back at Red Bull Arena on Sunday for a noon start time.
Both Steve and I were relieved that we could do a clear, two man broadcast on Sunday. Plus Connecticut was now closing in on a Number 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, which means home games until the Final Four in Hoover, Alabama (UConn 10-0-1 at home this season due to an attendance top 5 in the nation the last decade and a rowdy Goal Patrol harassing opposing goal keepers).
On the ride back to Storrs we followed the men’s basketball game, which featured the unveiling of the 2011 National Championship banner and a dunk by Jeremy Lamb that my roommate, Riggio, characterized as “Lamb throwing down so hard.” I took it with a grain of salt until we reached Buffalo Wild Wings and enjoyed the replay of Lamb posterizing some poor Ivy League defender (UConn ended up winning 70-57, not the best performance, Lamb though had 30 points).
As we enjoyed our wings and watched the Carrier Classic on television I thought about the broadcast we just had and overly critiqued my performance. I’ve always done this from when I was in Little League thinking of every play I should have made or what I could have done differently during an at-bat. My mom called it dwelling but I sort of tuned her out when she would say that, even if it was true. My poor mom always got the brunt of my anger and things I was upset about. Because she was the one who was always around to listen to it and vent to. It happens less and less as I get older but still there have been times when things just get thrown on her because I’m in what she calls “A pissy mood.” As I get older the more I notice how right she was on so many things when growing up (But I still never admit it because that goes against the argument that I’m trying to win).
The drive home was a bit quieter but Steve still kept conversation going (Not that I minded at all. Just tired from a long day of driving which kept me quieter than usual.). As we arrived around midnight I showered and fell asleep as soon as my head I hit the pillow.
I woke up at 9:30am and headed to the studio to meet up with Genna for the field hockey game that we were broadcasting at 11:30am. After grabbing the equipment and heading over to the Sherman Complex, which is a turf field the field hockey uses and an outdoor track surrounding it that I use frequently since it is right down the stairs from my room. The equipment of course didn’t work on the first...Or second try I got in some sprints for the day by running to the Student Union not once but twice to grab the other equipment. We finally connected as I sat down out of breath and getting a good sweat at this point. Genna was nice and didn’t say anything but she had to sit right next to me and I probably looked like a panting dog trying to cool down on a summer day. The game went perfectly in the press box and on the field. UConn won 3-2 and were headed to the Quarterfinals the next day against Penn State at 2PM (Yup that Penn State).
After bringing back the equipment to the studio and eating a couple grilled cheeses at the dining hall it was time to get some homework done. But first it was time to catch two of my favorite college football teams besides UConn because both of my really good friends go to these southern institutions. (Clemson and South Carolina. Yes they are rivals but it is justifiable because they are in different conferences and I love the friends that I have made at both schools, high school friends included of course). I have visited both schools multiple times including last June when the UConn baseball team made trips to both Clemson and South Carolina in the NCAA Tournament. UConn won the NCAA Regional at Clemson and lost to eventual back to back national championship South Carolina. Those two weeks were my favorite during the summer. I love hot weather and being in the South was awesome plus I was staying with my friends and, oh yes, WHUS was paying for my meals. Tradition was formed when Andrew Callahan and I would walk into the stadium and with the temperature hitting triple digits on multiple days and most people staying indoors I was enjoying it and said my infamous pregame line, IT’S A Hot ONE! (Carson Dunn and Steve Zocco, other WHUS broadcasters had to hear this as well when we traveled down to Wake Forest and out to Tulsa this September). People cringe when they hear that it’s over 100 degrees but I love it. I’m not sure why but sunglasses, shorts and a t-shirt is my favorite thing to wear. I hate sweaters and long sleeve shirts.
Anyway let’s get back to football. Clemson ended up coming back and clinched a spot in the ACC Championship game by winning the ACC Atlantic Division. (Debating on going down for that game in Charlotte for a chance at a BCS berth). South Carolina without Heisman candidate Marcus Lattimore beat Florida for the second year in a row but need some help from Georgia who plays lowly Kentucky this weekend. After a nice night run I was ready for some sleep and got ready for an early wake up on Sunday.
6:59am came and I was a mess. I hate waking up early. No person should have to get up before 9am. The body just doesn’t function the same way. I was getting ready to drive back down to NJ for the championship game at noon. At 7:30 I had picked up equipment and picked up Steve and Adam. (Adam is the former Sports Director at WHUS who wanted to come to Red Bull Arena since it was one of his weird dreams). An uneventful drive to Red Bull Arena this time got us to the stadium a little after 10PM giving us time to take some pictures and get some grub before the game. We were ready to go. During the national anthem we were ready for a good broadcast. I always take broadcasts as if I’m part of the game. During the anthem I’m thinking of all the things I need to do well to execute a good broadcast
(Yeah it might sound stupid but I take pride in what we do and embrace that I only am guaranteed a little over a year and a half of broadcasts. Who knows if after UConn I will ever broadcast another game. Besides executing a good broadcast I love to have fun during the broadcast. Joking around to a point is always good to connect with the audience. Adam was always easy to joke with. Zocco and Carson are also in that category but Callahan and I have the chemistry of doing a bunch of broadcasts together to transition between joking and seriousness the best. Yes, we try to stay as professional as possible but sometimes there is a need to have a good laugh on a broadcast).
Back to the action. UConn and St. John’s championship game was the epitome of what soccer haters dislike about soccer. 90 minutes and no score. It was time for overtime. UConn had dominated the whole game and was in search of an 8thBig East Tournament Championship. But… with three minutes left in the first overtime a turnover from the Defensive Player of the Year in the Big East gave St. John’s the victory. We finished the broadcast and were in silence for a couple of minutes before someone cracked a joke and we were back to ourselves (Being a broadcaster you feel like a part of the team. When they lose you are upset but when they win you get amped up as if you just won the game yourself). Being so attached to UConn I definitely take the losses the worst out of anyone on our staff. But with the people we have in our department you don’t stay down for long. We have a lot of fun in the Sports Department and that drive back home was a lot of fun.
We drove a mall close to the Tappan Zee Bridge and it didn’t look that impressive. It even was worse when it took us FOREVER to find a parking spot. We finally did when another car was pulling out. Now here was the scenario. The car could either pull forward or back up. I would be able to slide in if it pulled through and the car on the other side waiting as well would get in if it backed up. 50-50 was our chance at glory. It took these people an eternity to get into the car. They closed their trunk at least 3 different times. Finally they pulled forward and I gunned the engine of my Red Dodge Caravan, also known by my friends as BIG RED. I got into the spot and received the finger from some fat soccer mom that hadn’t exercised in years who had a van of her own. Victory is ours! We could finally go in the mall and grab food. Guess where we went. BUFFALO WILD WINGS. Second time in three days but football was on so it was a necessary destination. We ate and watched the end of the 1PM games. By this time I received word that the Field Hockey team had won and were headed to the Final Four in Louisville the following weekend. As sports director I was excited but 30 things were added to my to do list when I got back that night. (Who was going to travel? Easy choice was Genna. Had to email Mike Enright to see if Athletics would cover for us. The list goes on and on). I don’t mind it at all I love my job. Just had some homework that would get pushed aside until the last possible second. Yes mom, I know buckle down and do my school work.
After a delicious meal and my focus now fully on the Chicago Bears blowing out the Detroit Lions (I decided to withhold a couple texts to old sports director Eli Pearlstein who is an avid Detroit fan). It was time to top off the afternoon with a “slush” (Not sure if others call it this but WHUS members do). But first we needed to find a restroom facility which was nearly impossible in this mall. This mall was huge and the signs had no idea where the restroom was either. It pointed us in a general direction that could have meant straight ahead or up a level. We came to find out it was up a floor. We finally grabbed our respective desserts. I had a slush, Adam went to Cinnabon and Steve got a milkshake. The drive home hilarious. Adam hooked up his laptop to my IPod tape cassette and played us numerous WHUS PSA’s and Alex Giner halftime shows that are classics. It was a good time. We arrived at campus at 7:30pm and I dropped both guys off before heading back to my room to finish up some work for school and for the station. It was a good weekend not a perfect weekend but a solid weekend of UConn action.
Up next is Men’s basketball on Thursday at the XL Center. Men’s Hockey at Yale on Saturday and Men’s NCAA Tournament 2ndround action on Sunday before I head home to the BURY. Simsbury that is. For some home cooking and annoying my family especially my sister and two kitties. This was a long blog post and will try to do shorter and more frequent ones. But remember to tune in to sports at WHUS by streaming online at www.whus.orgor listening at 91.7FM. Like us on Facebook, WHUSSPORTS or follow on Twitter @WHUSSPORTS. Now for my song of the day this will be at the end of my blogs on what song I’m listening to a bunch because as you know now I love my music. Today’s song Tommy Chong (Featuring Macklemore) by Blue Scholars. Good week to you all talk to you next time